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United States District Court Judge Richard J. Leon has ruled in favor of AT&T in the government’s antitrust suit to block AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner . That decision matches word on the street over the past few weeks, and delivers a stern rebuke to the Trump Administration, which had opposed the deal from its earliest days. The decision was made following the close of markets in New York, and after hours trading was muted to the decision. In light of today’s decision, Comcast, which has been eyeing its own content creator takeover of 21st Century Fox, will likely move forward with a bid as early as tomorrow. In October 2016, AT&T announced its plan to acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion, and a total of $108 billion with debt. The DOJ moved to block the merger in March, arguing that the merger would reduce competition and hurt consumer choice. The nuances of this case are important, as the implications of this decision reach far beyond the individual businesses of AT&T and Time Warner to the vast media landscape as a whole. First off, it’s worth noting that the overall goal of antitrust regulations is to protect the consumer from unfair business practices that may arise from a consolidation of power within a single company. But size isn’t necessarily what’s most important in these types of cases. In fact, sometimes a merger can help competition and consumer choice, as is more often the case with vertical mergers. A vertical merger is when two companies who provide different or complimentary offerings join forces, giving consumers access to a more comprehensive set of services, at a lower price, while still generating profits. That’s not to say that vertical mergers get through regulatory approval free and clear — the FTC has fought 22 vertical mergers since 2000 — but they receive less scrutiny than horizontal mergers. AT&T-Time Warner is considered a vertical merger, as AT&T is a content distributor and Time Warner is a content creator. But the overall landscape complicates the decision a great deal. There are only a handful of companies in this space, and they are some of the most powerful companies in the world. AT&T itself is the largest telecom provider in the world, and via DirecTV, it is also the largest multichannel video programming distributor in the U.S. Time Warner, meanwhile, owns channels like TBS and TNT, HBO, Warner Bros, not to mention the assets to live sports and news orgs such as NBA, MLB, NCAA March Madness, and PGA. The DoJ has argued that this type of consolidation would give the merged AT&T Time Warner the ability to raise prices, thwarting the competition’s ability to compete by forcing them to raise prices to maintain carriage rights. The government has also argued that the newly rolled back Net Neutrality rules would no longer protect AT&T from, say, throttling Netflix if it didn’t purchase and distribute Time Warner content. On the other side, AT&T and Time Warner (big as they may be) face steep competition from the FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google), all of whom have made video a top priority. In fact, CNNMoney reported that AT&T-Time Warner’s counsel Daniel Petrocelli made the argument that traditional media orgs have already been left behind in the digital revolution. From the report: Petrocelli told Judge Leon that their estimates show FAANG is worth $3 trillion collectively, while an AT&T-Time Warner entity post-merger would be worth $300 billion. ‘We’re chasing their tail lights,’ Petrocelli said. It’s also worth noting that President Trump has been publicly opposed to the deal since he was on the campaign trail. Remember, Time Warner owns CNN, which is the object of some of Trump’s most focused hatred. At a campaign rally in 2016, Trump said his administration would not approve the deal, raising concerns over political interference. The government has argued that Trump did not communicate with antitrust officials over the deal and that their choice to fight the merger was not influenced by the White House.

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LOLA, a subscription service delivering tampons and pads, and now other products, including condoms, lubricant, and feminine cleansing wipes, has closed on $24 million in Series B funding. While the startup touts its products’ “100% organic” nature, it’s also well-received because of the customization offered and its direct-to-consumer nature. The new round of financing was led by private equity firm Alliance Consumer Growth (ACG), with support from existing investors Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau and Brand Foundry Ventures. To date, LOLA has raised $11.2 million, from investors including also BBG Ventures, 14W, the founders of Warby Parker and Harry’s, Sweetgreen, Bonobos, and Insomnia Cookies. Celebs like Serena Williams, Karlie Kloss, Lena Dunham, and Allison Williams have also invested. Launched in 2015, LOLA’s founders Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier had the idea to challenge industry giants, like Tampax and Playtex, with a 100% organic product. “We founded LOLA with a simple and seemingly obvious idea – as women, we shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to our reproductive health,” explains Kier. “Like most women, we’d been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. But when we found out that brands – including the same ones we were loyal to all those years – aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products, it made us wonder: what’s in our tampon?” “If we care about everything else we put in our bodies, products for our reproductive health shouldn’t be any different,” she states. LOLA’s tampons, pads and liners are made only with organic cotton, not synthetic fibers, like those used mainstream brands. Nor do they contain fragrances or dyes. The nature of its products appeal to consumers – especially, young millennial women – who are more conscious of the chemicals in their products, as well as those who want to buy organic for the environmental benefits. That said, there’s a bit of debate over how dangerous (or not) it is to use traditional feminine care products. Skeptics, including some doctors, insist there’s no threat from conventional products. But even women not concerned with buying organic may find LOLA appealing because of its model. Its subscription service lets you create a box with your own mix of tampon sizes (with or without applicators, which can be either cardboard or plastic). That’s something you can’t do when buying off the shelf. Plus, LOLA’s boxes aren’t any more expensive than those bought in the store. Its 18-count box of applicator tampons is $10 per month; or it’s $9 each, if ordering two or three boxes per month. Non-applicator tampons are a dollar less. In addition, LOLA sells other period-related products, including an essential oil blend for cramps, a multi-vitamin that protects against PMS, and a first period starter kit. In May, the startup broadened its mission to become more of a female health company with the launch of SEX by LOLA. This product line includes condoms, personal lubricant, and all-natural feminine cleansing wipes for women. It’s the startup’s first product line outside of feminine care. “Until now, there wasn’t really a place for women to turn to for honesty, reliability and information when it comes to their sex products,” says Kier of the new product lineup. “Historically, sexual wellness companies have been primarily marketed towards men and promote products that contain obscure ingredients and unnatural additives.” SEX by LOLA products, on the other hand, don’t have “irritating” additives, the founder explains, but still deliver the sensation and reliability you’d expect, she says.  These new products are also offered on subscription, starting at $10 per month for a 12-count box of condoms or 12-count box of cleansing wipes. The company plans to use the Series B funds to finance product development, expand customer outreach – including through events, partnerships and offline – and expand its 19-person, currently New York-based team. More importantly, perhaps, is throwing more fuel on the fire, as LOLA is no longer without competition. There are a number of subscription startups for feminine products on the market today, including Le Parcel (which also ships chocolate); organic rival Cora, which focuses on discrete, portable tampons and carrying cases; Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company (which just got $200M) and sustainable competitors like Flex’s tampon alternative, as well as other reusable menstrual cups, like Diva Cup. And, of course, you can subscribe and save on Amazon to almost anything, including tampons. LOLA declines to share details related to the size and growth of its customer base or its revenue, so it’s difficult to rank LOLA in terms of its competition. Where LOLA may have some leverage, however, is encouraging more open discussions about female reproductive health, and engaging its customers through social media. The startup touts 6 times the number of Instagram followers compared with mainstream brands, for example, and says 1 in 4 customers have directly engaged with its brand over a variety of communication channels, including calls, emails, DMs, texts, and letters. ACG’s investment could help LOLA become more of a household name. The firm has previously backed brands like Harry’s, Pacifica, Shake Shack, Plum Organics, PDQ, barkTHINS, EVOL Foods, Suja Juice, Nudestix, and others. “LOLA is at the epicenter of the shift towards transparency in the women’s health category, and we couldn’t be more impressed with the brand Alex and Jordana have built and the impactful conversation they’ve driven,” said Alliance Consumer Growth Managing Partner, Trevor Nelson, in a statement about its funding. “We’re thrilled to welcome LOLA into the ACG family and support their continued evolution and product innovation, enabling them to meet their consumers’ needs,” he added.

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In 2014, it seemed like pretty much anyone with a pulse and pitch deck was capable of raising huge amounts of capital from prestigious venture capital firms at sky-high valuations. Here we are four years later and times have changed. VCs inked a little more than 3,100 deals in the last quarter of 2017, according to Crunchbase — about 500 fewer than the previous quarter. For aspiring startup founders, it’s a “confusing time in the so-called Unicorn story,” as Erin Griffith put it in a column last May — an asset bubble that never really popped, but which at the very least is deflating. In the confirmation hearing for new SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, lawmakers lamented the dearth of initial public offerings as companies that thrived in private markets — from Snap to Blue Apron — have struggled to deliver meaningful returns to investors. This all creates a number of dilemmas for founders looking to raise capital and scale businesses in 2018. VCs remain an integral part of the innovation ecosystem. But what happens when the changing dynamics of financial markets collide with VCs’ expectations regarding growth? VCs may not always be aligned with founders and companies in this new environment. A recent study commissioned by Eric Paley at Founder Collective found that by pressuring companies to scale prematurely, venture capitalists are indirectly responsible for more startup deaths than founder infighting, technical debt and slow customer adoption — combined. The new landscape requires that founders in particular be judicious in the way they seek out new sources of capital, structure cap tables and ownership and the types of concessions made to their new backers in exchange for that much-needed cash. Here are three ways founders can ensure they’re looking out for what’s best for their companies — and themselves — in the long run. Take time to backchannel Venture capitalists are arguably in the business of due diligence. Before they sign the dotted line, they can be expected to call your competitors, your customers, your former employers, your business school classmates — they will ask everyone and their mother about you. It goes without saying that differences of opinion regarding your business strategy can lead to big conflict down the road. A first-time founder is also new to the pressures of entrepreneurship, of having employees rely on you for their livelihoods. Whether you are desperate for cash because you need to make payroll, or you’re anxious for the validation of a headline-worthy investment, few founders take the time to properly backchannel their investors. Until you can say you’ve done due diligence of your own, your opinion of your VCs is going to be based on the size of their fund, the deals they’ve done or the press they’ve gotten. In short, it will likely be based on what they’ve done right. On the other hand, you likely don’t know anything about the actual partner that will join your board. Are they intelligent in your space? Do they have a meaningful network? Or do they just know a few headhunters? Are they value creators? What is their political standing in their firm? Before you sign a term sheet, you need to take the time to contextualize the profile of the person who is taking a board seat. It gives you foresight on the actions your investment partner will likely take down the road. Think beyond your first raise If you do decide to raise capital, make sure you are in alignment with your board regarding your business plan, the pursuit of profit at the expense of revenue growth, or vice versa, and how it will steer your decision making as the market changes. It goes without saying that differences of opinion regarding your business strategy can lead to big conflict down the road. As you think about these trade-offs, remember that as an entrepreneur, your obligation is to the existing shareholders: the employees and you. As the pack of potential unicorns has thinned, VCs in particular have turned to unconventional deal structures, like the use of common and preferred shares. For the founder who needs to raise cash, a dual ownership structure seems like a fair compromise to make, but remember that it may be at the expense of your employees’ option pool. The interests of preferred and common shareholders are not perfectly aligned, particularly when it comes time to make difficult decisions in the future. Is VC money right for you? VCs frequently share information, board decks and investor presentations with members of the press and the tech community, sometimes in support of their own personal agendas or to get perspective on whether to invest or not. That’s why it’s particularly important to backchannel, and more importantly, that you have allies that you can call on and people who can ensure some measure of goodwill. A good company board cannot be made up of just the investors and you: You need advocates that are balanced and on your side. Venture capital is far from the only way to finance an early-stage business. These prescriptions can sound paranoid, particularly to the founder whose business is growing nicely. But anything can cause a sea change and put you at odds with the people funding your company — who now own a piece of the company that you’re trying to build. When disagreements arise, it can get tense. They might say that you are a first-time founder, and therefore a novice. They will make your weaknesses known and say you’ll never be able to raise again if you ignore their invaluable advice. It’s important that you don’t fall into the fear trap. If you create a product or service that solves an undeniable problem, the money will come — and you will get funded again. The term founder-friendly VC was always perhaps a bit of a misnomer. The people building the business and the people planning on cashing in on your efforts are imperfect allies. As a founder and business owner, your primary responsibilities are to your clients, to the company you’re building and, most importantly, to the employees who are helping you do it. As founders we like to think that we have all the answers, especially in bad times. Making sure you have alignment with your investors in challenging and unpredictable situations is critical. It’s important to anticipate how your investors will problem-solve before you give up control. Venture capital is far from the only way to finance an early-stage business. Founders looking to jump-start their business have a number of alternatives, from debt financing and bootstrapping to crowdfunding, angel investors and ICOs. There are indeed still many advantages to having experienced investors on your side, not simply the cash but also the access to hiring and industry knowledge. But the relationship can only benefit both parties when founders go in eyes wide open.

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Tesla has laid off about nine percent of its employees, Electrek first reported. This is part of the reorganization Musk talked about in May on the company’s quarterly earnings call. The layoffs reportedly started on Monday and will be made official at some point today. Tesla, which also operates SolarCity, is only laying off salaried employees. Tesla isn’t letting go any production associates, as the company is trying to ramp up Model 3 production. “We made these decisions by evaluating the criticality of each position, whether certain jobs could be done more efficiently and productively, and by assessing the specific skills and abilities of each individual in the company,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote to employees in an email obtained by TechCrunch. “As you know, we are also continuing to flatten our management structure to help us communicate better, eliminate bureaucracy and move faster.” When Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016, its headcount increased to more than 30,000 employees. Toward the end of 2017, Tesla had around 37,000 employees. In February, Tesla made a deal with Home Depot to sell the PowerWall and solar panels at 800 of Home Depot’s locations. But Tesla has reportedly not renewed its contract, which means the Tesla employees working at Home Depot won’t be needed anymore. Instead, Musk said in his email that they “will be offered the opportunity to move over to Tesla retail locations.” The hope with the restructure is to get to profitability. Last quarter, Tesla reported record revenues along with record losses. In Q1 2018, Tesla’s net losses were a record $784.6 million ($4.19 per share). Here’s the full email Musk wrote to staffers: As described previously, we are conducting a comprehensive organizational restructuring across our whole company. Tesla has grown and evolved rapidly over the past several years, which has resulted in some duplication of roles and some job functions that, while they made sense in the past, are difficult to justify today. As part of this effort, and the need to reduce costs and become profitable, we have made the difficult decision to let go of approximately 9% of our colleagues across the company. These cuts were almost entirely made from our salaried population and no production associates were included, so this will not affect our ability to reach Model 3 production targets in the coming months. Given that Tesla has never made an annual profit in the almost 15 years since we have existed, profit is obviously not what motivates us. What drives us is our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable, clean energy, but we will never achieve that mission unless we eventually demonstrate that we can be sustainably profitable. That is a valid and fair criticism of Tesla’s history to date. This week, we are informing those whose roles are impacted by this action. We made these decisions by evaluating the criticality of each position, whether certain jobs could be done more efficiently and productively, and by assessing the specific skills and abilities of each individual in the company. As you know, we are also continuing to flatten our management structure to help us communicate better, eliminate bureaucracy and move faster. In addition to this company-wide restructuring, we’ve decided not to renew our residential sales agreement with Home Depot in order to focus our efforts on selling solar power in Tesla stores and online. The majority of Tesla employees working at Home Depot will be offered the opportunity to move over to Tesla retail locations. I would like to thank everyone who is departing Tesla for their hard work over the years. I’m deeply grateful for your many contributions to our mission. It is very difficult to say goodbye. In order to minimize the impact, Tesla is providing significant salary and stock vesting (proportionate to length of service) to those we are letting go. To be clear, Tesla will still continue to hire outstanding talent in critical roles as we move forward and there is still a significant need for additional production personnel. I also want to emphasize that we are making this hard decision now so that we never have to do this again. To those who are departing, thank you for everything you’ve done for Tesla and we wish you well in your future opportunities. To those remaining, I would like to thank you in advance for the difficult job that remains ahead. We are a small company in one of the toughest and most competitive industries on Earth, where just staying alive, let alone growing, is a form of victory (Tesla and Ford remain the only American car companies who haven’t gone bankrupt). Yet, despite our tiny size, Tesla has already played a major role in moving the auto industry towards sustainable electric transport and moving the energy industry towards sustainable power generation and storage. We must continue to drive that forward for the good of the world.   Thanks, Elon

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As rumored, Fornite is coming to the Nintendo Switch. In fact, it’s arriving even earlier than we imagined, available today as a free download from the Nintendo eShop. The addition widens the play field for the title’s wildly popular gameplay. The Epic game is currently available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and iOS, in addition to the new Nintendo console. And while cross-platform play has been the key to the battle royale mode, Sony’s long been a bit of a stick in the mud on this one. The Xbox One version, for instance, can be played with PC and iOS. Ditto for the PS4 version. But Xbox One and PS4 cross-play is a non-starter. The Verge noted that the same appears to be the case with the Nintendo Switch version, a fact that TechCrunch has since verified with an Epic spokesperson. “Cross-play and cross progression on Switch work with Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile,” the company confirmed. We’ve also reached out to both Nintendo and Sony on the matter, to see what the hang up is here. Sony certainly appears to be the sticking point on this one, at least from the outside. The company likely sees its own massive sales figures as a competitive advantage here. The PS4 topped 70 million units late last year, and while Microsoft doesn’t release figures for the Xbox One, Sony’s device is the pretty clear frontrunner. Fortnite, meanwhile, has been a massive success in its own right. In April, it became the biggest free-to-play console game, a number that’s only going to increase with today’s addition of the Switch to the ranks. Later this summer, Android users will also be able to get their hands on the title.

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Google today is expanding the capabilities of its Android parental control software, Family Link, to go beyond helping parents better manage their child’s device and app usage. Now, the Family Link app will also help parents learn about what apps they may want to install for their kids, as well. In a new discovery section, Family Link will feature a list of educational apps for children ages six through nine that parents can install with a tap. The apps are “recommended by teachers,” the section proclaims. Google explains that it worked with teachers from across the U.S. to come up with this curated list of apps with educational value. The teachers were recruited to rate content based on their expertise in learning and child development, and had a diverse background in terms of things like years of experience, demographics, and locations in the U.S. The apps must also meet Google’s Designed for Families (DFF) program requirements.  At launch, the recommended apps come from publishers like MarcoPolo Learning Inc., BrainPOP, Edoki Academy and others, and include those that teach kids about facts and figures, interesting places around the world, and, of course – it’s Google! – the basics of coding, among other things. There are currently a few dozen recommended apps, but they won’t appear all at once. Instead, Google tells us, the list will refresh on a weekly basis so as not to overwhelm either the parent or child. Over time, Google plans to add more apps to the feature, including those for other age ranges. Currently, all the apps are free, but Google may choose to highlight paid apps in the future, a spokesperson says. Parents can tap on the apps to visit their page on Google Play, and add them directly to their child’s device with a tap on the “Install” button. The feature is available in the Family Link mobile app for parents in the U.S. for the time being. Google says it will be available in other markets over time. The recommendations of “nutritious” apps, as Google refers to them in an announcement, comes at a time when major tech companies are paying increased attention to the time spent on devices, and a growing concern among consumers – parents and otherwise – that it’s not time well spent. At Google’s developer conference in May, the company detailed new Android-based tools for managing and monitoring screen time to promote healthier app and device usage. This includes ways to prevent the phone from distracting or stimulating users, as well as time limits for apps. These sorts of controls are things parents want for their children, too, which is what Family Link, launched publicly in fall 2017, has provided. But when even “screen time” itself is being seen as a concern, it makes sense that Google would want to showcase some of the apps that provide something of value. The feature is launching today on Family Link for Android with iOS support to follow.

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Nintendo came out with the big guns for its pre-recorded E3 conference this morning, delivering updates on a couple veteran franchises while also bringing some new titles to its Switch console. We didn’t get a ton of big surprises, but what Nintendo showed off was certainly exciting to a lot of fans. The bulk of the presentation was (as expected) devoted to the intimate minutiae of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, which is arriving at the end of the year and will bring the biggest cast of video game series to the game ever, with some new characters arriving alongside the entire cast of the series’ previous iterations. Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Super Mario Party and Fortnite were probably the biggest highlights, but let’s take a look at everything they talked about. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate One of the crazier parts of this announcement included the fact that Nintendo has made a redesigned Gamecube controller which will be compatible with the game and will be supporting your old Gamecube controller somehow as well, presumably with a dongle. Is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate the most ambitious crossover event in history? Available December 7, 2018 Super Mario Party Alongside the new gameplay content, Super Mario Party is going to integrate some weird multi-Switch gameplay that will allow users to play together across multiple Switch consoles and merge their screens together. Super Mario Party lets you connect multiple Switch consoles to expand your screen Available October 5, 2018. Fortnite Fortnite arrives on the Nintendo Switch today Available now for free download. Other stuff In addition to the big gun trifecta of game announcements, Nintendo also shed some light on other titles coming to the system which has realistically had a pretty tiny game library since launch. Fire Emblem Three Houses Coming spring 2019. DRAGON BALL FighterZ Coming 2019. Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country New update available September 14 for Expansion Pass members. Other titles announced during the Nintendo Direct included Daemon X Machina, Overcooked! 2, Killer Queen Black, Hollow Knight and Octopath Traveler. In terms of the new Pokémon titles, Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, they will be available November 16 and people will be able to buy a $99.99 combo that includes the Poké Ball Plus controller as well. So that’s it, no Metroid Prime news, no Animal Crossing for Switch, no other big teases, but there’s certainly a good chunk of titles to keep Switch owners excited for a while. We’ll be at E3 checking out some of these new titles this week so stay tuned for more from us on the ground in Los Angeles.

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Nintendo sure thinks so. Take that, The Avengers. The game is certainly a massive undertaking and a comprehensive Nintendo history lesson, including every playable character from past Super Smash Bros. versions. A handful of additions were announced this morning during Nintendo’s E3 kickoff event, including also-ran Super Mario princess, Daisy; new Pokemon; Splatoon’s Inkling and perennial Metroid baddie, Ridley. The company didn’t give specifics with regard to the number of playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it’s definitely well into the dozens, with more being announced as we push toward the December 7 release date. It seems there’s still a lot to unpack, even beyond the 25 minutes of footage the company debuted this morning.  “At E3, we’re showing how Nintendo Switch continues to redefine play, with the broadest range of games people can enjoy together anytime, anywhere,” said NOA President Reggie Fils-Aime said in a statement tied to the news. “Fans who’ve debated which Super Smash Bros. fighter is the best now have the chance to settle their differences once and for all, pitting familiar faces against fresh challengers on stages both new and old.” The title will, naturally, include new stages, which appear to be increasingly complex, as is the nature of the series. Among them are levels from fellow Switch titles Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2. And, as if the whole thing wasn’t steeped in enough fan service, Fils-Aime also alluded to the fact that users will be able to play the title with a GameCube controller. Nintendo added support for the bygone accessory via a USB adapter late last year. No words on the specifics of when that will be available for the title, but the addition will go a long ways toward improving gameplay over the Switch’s admittedly limited Joy-Cons.

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Google Search is getting an update today that will put data about colleges front and center when you search for a school’s name. The idea here is somewhat similar to what Google did with its job search feature. In this case, the company aggregates data about a school that’s typically hard to find and then presents it in a single widget. One caveat here, though, is that this only works for four-year schools. So if you’re looking for data about community colleges, for example, this new tool won’t help you. Finding all of this information about cost, acceptance and graduation rates, available majors, stats about the student body and other details like the typical annual income of graduates after ten years can be very time-consuming. This new widget puts all of this data right into the sidebar (on desktop) or at the top of the page (on mobile). Google is mostly getting this data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The company notes that it worked with researcher and nonprofit organizations, as well as high school counselors and admissions professional to design the new experience. This new feature is now live and should automatically pop up when you search for any four-year school in the U.S.

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Google today announced a major change to its Chrome Web Store policy that aims to shield users from websites that try to fool them into installing their Chome extensions. Until now, developers who publish their apps in the Web Store, could also initiate app and extension installs from their own websites. Too often, though, developers combined these so-called ‘inline installs‘ with deceptive information on their sites to get users to install them. Unsurprisingly, that’s not quite the experience Google had in mind when it enabled this feature back in 2011, so now it’s shutting it down. Starting today, inline installation will be unavailable to all newly published extensions. Developers who use the standard method for calling for an install from their site will see that their users will get redirected to the Chrome Web Store to complete the installation. Come September 12, 2018, all inline installs of existing extensions will be shut down and users will be redirected to the store, too. Come December and the launch of Chrome 71, the API that currently allows for this way of installing extensions will go away. “As we’ve attempted to address this problem over the past few years, we’ve learned that the information displayed alongside extensions in the Chrome Web Store plays a critical role in ensuring that users can make informed decisions about whether to install an extension,” James Wagner, the product manager for the extensions platform, writes in today’s update. “When installed through the Chrome Web Store, extensions are significantly less likely to be uninstalled or cause user complaints, compared to extensions installed through inline installation.” As Wagner notes, inline installations have been an issue for a long time. Back in 2015, for example, sites that tried to deceive users into installing extensions by getting them to click on fake ads or error messages were the main issue.

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Currently, when the Google Translate apps for iOS and Android has access to the internet, its translations are far superior to those it produces when it’s offline. That’s because the offline translations are phrase-based, meaning they use an older machine translation technique than the machine learning-powered systems in the cloud that the app has access to when it’s online. But that’s changing today. Google is now rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Today, only a small number of users will see the updated offline translations, but it will roll out to all users within the next few weeks. The list of supported languages consists of a wide range of languages. Because I don’t want to play favorites, here is the full list: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian, Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jannada, Korean, Lavtian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Welsh. In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn’t really an option since mobile phones didn’t have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that’s less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google’s case, that’s about 30 to 40 megabytes per language. It’s worth noting that Microsoft also announced a similar feature for its Translator app earlier this year. It uses a very similar technique but for the time being, it only supports about a dozen languages.  

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French startup Exotec Solutions raised a $17.7 million funding round (€15 million) from Iris Capital with existing investors 360 Capital Partners and Breega also participating. The startup has built an automated robot called the Skypods to optimize e-commerce warehouses. It’s easy to forget about it when you click on “buy now”, but there are a ton of people walking through endless aisles of products every day to pick up your next order. Exotec is selling a complete solution to replace part of your warehouse with a robot-managed area. France’s second biggest e-commerce website Cdiscount has been experimenting with Exotec and now plans to buy more robots, racks and stations in the coming months. Skypods are low-profile robots that can carry a standardized box and bring it back to a human operator. But the Skypods don’t just move on flat grounds. They can move up and down a rack and grab a box from the shelves. This is the most visual part of Exotec, but designing efficient logistics software for automated warehouse solutions is arguably even harder. The startup promises few errors and the ability to add more racks and robots without having to stop your fulfillment center. With today’s funding round, the company plans to build and sell a thousand robots by 2019. It’s clear that e-commerce companies won’t switch to Exotec overnight. Many companies face huge spikes of demand during the holiday season for instance. So they need to make sure that it can handle a lot of pickups during the most demanding times. Other companies, such as CommonSense Robotics focus on smaller warehouses and groceries with a warehouse-as-a-service approach. Overall, automated fulfillment centers seem like the future. Warehouses are constrained and predictable environments. And this is perfect for automated systems. Now let’s see who is going to grab more market share in this space.

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When it comes to scaling startups, few people are as accomplished or consistently successful as Reid Hoffman . While the rest of us consider scaling a startup to market domination a daunting task, Hoffman has continued to make it look easy. In September, Hoffman will join us at TC Disrupt SF to share his strategies on “blitzscaling,” which also happens to be the title of his forthcoming book. Hoffman started out his Silicon Valley career at PayPal, serving as EVP and a founding board member. In 2003, Hoffman founded LinkedIn from his living room. LinkedIn now has more than 500 million members across 200 countries and territories across the world, effectively becoming a necessity to the professional marketplace. Hoffman left LinkedIn in 2007, but his contributions to the company certainly helped turn it into the behemoth it is today, going public in 2011 and selling to Microsoft for a whopping $26.2 billion in 2016. At Disrupt, he’ll outline some of the methodology behind going from startup to scale up that is outlined in his new book, Blitzscaling, co-authored with Chris Yeh: Blitzscaling is a specific set of practices for igniting and managing dizzying growth; an accelerated path to the stage in a startup’s life-cycle where the most value is created. It prioritizes speed over efficiency in an environment of uncertainty, and allows a company to go from “startup” to “scaleup” at a furious pace that captures the market. Drawing on their experiences scaling startups into billion-dollar businesses, Hoffman and Yeh offer a framework for blitzscaling that can be replicated in any region or industry. Readers will learn how to design business models that support lightning-fast growth, navigate necessary shifts in strategy at each level of scale, and weather the management challenges that arise as their company grows. Today, Hoffman leads Greylock Partners’ Discovery Fund, where he invests in seed-stage entrepreneurs and companies. He currently serves on the boards of Airbnb, Convoy, Edmodo and Microsoft. Hoffman’s place in the VC world is a natural continuation of his angel investing. His angel portfolio includes companies like Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, and Zynga. Hoffman has also invested in tech that affects positive change, serving on the non-profit boards of Biohub, Kiva, Endeavor, and DoSomething.org. Blitzscaling marks Hoffman’s third book (others include The Startup of You and The Alliance) and we’re absolutely thrilled to have him teach us a thing or two at Disrupt SF. Tickets to Disrupt SF are available now right here.

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Despite the growth of Amazon and other e-commerce giants, offline commerce — buying goods from brick-and-mortar stores — still accounts for around 90 percent of all retail spending. So in a bid to bridge the divide between online and in-store commerce — and potentially get itself a bigger piece of the action — Google is announcing a number of new features for Google Shopping aimed at physical and local merchants. The company today launched a new feature called “See What’s In Store,” which will let physical stores provide a list of their inventory for free both in their Knowledge Panels (the boxes that appear in the right-hand column in the search results for a particular business) as well as on Google Maps. The new feature was announced at the same time as a couple of other enhancements: Google will now provide location extensions on video campaigns on YouTube; and enhanced local catalog display ads that will let merchants feature larger “hero” images as well as full listings of their other in-store inventory, along with stock and pricing information. The local catalog ads and inventory listings are coming by way of some new partnerships: Google will be working with point-of-sale and inventory data providers like Pointy, Cayan, Linx and yReceipts, who work directly with merchants, to provide the data to Google. As one example of how this will work, Pointy — a startup from Mark Cummins, who sold his previous startup, a visual search engine called Plink, to Google in is first UK acquisition — is based around an app that integrates with POS services like Square, or a $499 standalone device, and merchants use these to scan items’ barcodes in order to upload them easily to their websites or other online portals with a minimum of extra labor and data entry; merchants will now have the option of porting that data directly to Google. Providing more bridges between merchants and Google’s search and advertising portals serves a couple of different purposes for Google. First, it gives the company another springboard from which to sell more advertising to those merchants, since shoppers may be more inclined to enhance their online presence when they know they are already seeing traffic from potential buyers there. According to a blog post on the new service from Surojit Chatterjee, Google Shopping’s head of product, some 80 percent of shoppers will visit a store if they know they will find there what they are looking for, so in theory providing that inventory list could increase that strike rate for businesses (or at the very least reduce frustration people may have when they do go to the store and find the product not there). Second, it gives Google another way of providing a relevant platform for the so-called world of “omni-commerce,” or as some might refer to it, online-to-offline commerce, which in turn can drive more ad sales. Chatterjee said Boulanger, an early retailer trialling the new version of catalog ads, pictured above, drove more than 20,000 visits to its stores, with the sales bump resulting from that “delivering a return of 42 times its investment on ad spend.” This is also particularly timely, given the work that Amazon is reportedly doing to expand the kinds of ads it delivers across third-party sites and apps: the e-commerce giant is said to be testing new display ads that would bypass Google to help promote products for merchants that sell through Amazon. Given that Amazon is also continually looking for inroads also to working with physical merchants, this presents one more threat to Google’s ad-based revenue model. It’s not the only move Google has made to expand its e-commerce reach. In its own riposte to WholeFoods and Amazon, it has started to work with grocery stores to sell their products online. The most recent customer for the service is Carrefour in France. For the merchants, maintaining online an online presence via Google could also be helpful. Although some will still seek out a company’s own website or app, in many cases — especially for smaller businesses — maintaining these can be time-consuming and costly; and that’s before considering just how much traffic they might receive. Google, of course, provides a one-stop portal to search across everything, so this gives users a potentially bigger strike rate for online visibility. The fact that the inventory will also come up in Maps is very interesting, too: aimed at consumers on the go, it could prove to finally solve the problem of running from place to place, or spending lots of time phoning, when a customer wants to buy something urgently. Other Shopping features announced today include a new competitive pricing feature, which will let merchants check pricing for similar items sold by other retailers, and boost advertising bids if they know they have a better deal at their own store. Google also provided an update on Shopping Actions, a program it launched in March for customers to be able to purchase items straight from search, Assistant or voice queries in Google apps. Google says that more than 70 retailers are live with the program today, which is also sold as an ad unit and runs as a conjunction to more basic Shopping ads.

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Super Mario Party is coming to the Nintendo Switch but alongside the new party gameplay, there appears to be an interesting new use of the Switch hardware for multi-player purposes. It appears you’ll be able to modularly connect at least two Nintendo Switch consoles to expand the size of the screen you’re working with. In gameplay it seems actions will be able to seamlessly move from one screen to the other after users draw where the connection between the consoles are. This orientation calibration mechanic for Mario Party is currently front runner for Interaction Design of the year. Shut it down folks. pic.twitter.com/kHl7GsBEcX — Jim Toepel (@jimtoepel) June 12, 2018 Mario Party has long been a Nintendo franchise that pushes the technical limits of the systems in their most gimmicky capacities. It seems that the Switch will gain some cool applications of the controllers’ motion capabilities for the wide variety of party games. This really seems like the idealized use for the Switch’s controller system and while Mario Kart 8 offered a lot of tabletop fun for using controllers on the tiny screen, Nintendo is really letting loose here bringing multiple Switches together and all of the controllers that they can handle. How much a feature like this would actually be used in real life is a little dubious, but we’ll find out how much the mechanic fits into gameplay October 5.

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After days of press conferences teasing games arriving in some time within the next decade, here’s a refreshing bit of news. As previously rumored, wildly popular sandbox survival game Fortnite is, indeed, coming to Nintendo Switch. Not only that, it’s  available starting today as a free download from the Nintendo eShop. Epic’s title will be available at 10AM PT today (a little under an hour from now), bringing the battle royale mode that has made it such a massive money maker on the PC, consoles and iOS, which arrived in March. An Android version of the title is also in the works for later this summer.  The game is a perfect fit for console. Nintendo’s long time focus on all ages entertainment certainly lines up with the title, which skews younger than many of the titles on display at the show this week, along with the (perhaps litigiously so) similar Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG). The battle royale game play means Switch players will be able to play against a gamers and the growing number of devices Fortnite is currently available for.

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The advertising-lite days of Reddit are now firmly in the rear-view as the rapidly maturing company begins to seriously chase advertising revenues in users’ feeds. Today, the Reddit has announced that it is rolling out autoplaying video ads across the site on mobile and desktop. Reddit is looking to tread as carefully as they can as the company begins to quickly scale its ad products; its vocal user base has often proven resistant to sweeping changes. Users will be able to turn off autoplay on video ads in their main feed. Additionally, for the time being, video ads will only be served to users that are utilizing the expanded card display type which is the default of three new modes in Reddit’s latest mobile and desktop redesign. These are also just for standalone ad campaigns at the moment, this rollout will not add pre-roll ads to videos that users click on. Additionally, video ads will be available to managed advertising partners first with all partners gaining access in the next month or so. The popular site, which currently reports 330 million monthly active users, has remained relatively unchanged for much of the first half of this decade, but over the past couple years has accelerated its product growth with a redesign of its mobile apps and desktop site, a move to host images on video natively and, more recently, a major push to integrate native advertising. “We have an opportunity to business-build,” Reddit VP of Brand Partnerships Zubair Jandali told TechCrunch. “Reddit has remarkable product-market fit on the consumer side and we’ve not layered a business on top of it. There aren’t a lot of opportunities that tend to come around like that.” The video ads business will be built onto the company’s native video product, which only recently came to exist. The company’s history with external sites like Imgur and YouTube hosting its linked content has been long, but this past August the company launched its own native video platform which the company says has continued to excel, with native video views growing 23 percent month-over-month. Autoplaying video ads are a major progression for a site that only rolled out native ads to its mobile apps a couple months ago. Reddit has been making some big sweeping changes to its site, but by delivering a lot of new utility to users alongside new changes to its advertising platform, things seem to be progressing more smoothly that many would’ve expected, we’ll see if that continues.

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More financing is coming in for Bird, this time potentially valuing the company at $2 billion, according to a new report by Axios. There’s not a ton to add here compared to the last round (which happened just weeks ago), as the same dynamics are probably in play here. While Uber was a bet on car rides and generally getting around, Bird is that but at a dramatically more granular level — thinking short hops of a few miles in congested areas. Startups that are exceedingly hot can sometimes pull off these rolling rounds where investors are coming in at various points, especially as the model further proves out over time. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you’ve probably seen Bird (and Lime) scooters hanging out on the sidewalks — potentially knocked over in a spot where someone might trip over them while checking his or her phone. That’s been a point of tension in areas like San Francisco, where Bird has had to temporarily come off the sidewalks as a permit system rolls out. Bird isn’t the first mobility-focused service that has faced regulatory challenges before, but it is one that’s become very popular very quickly. This too, as Axios notes, could be an easy play to get into a hot market that a major ridesharing company could want to buy its way into. Uber acquired Jump, an on-demand bike service, in the midst of its own financing round. While bikes don’t seem to be getting quite the hype that scooters are, Lyft is also planning to acquire Motivate, an on-demand biking network. Bird just weeks ago raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation, while Lime raised an additional $250 million. Bird was valued at $300 million in a financing round earlier this year.

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Amino has raised a big Series C round of funding — $45 million from GV, Venrock, Union Square Ventures, Goodwater Capital and Time Warner Investments, with Hearst Ventures joining as a new investor. Co-founder and CEO Ben Anderson has described Amino as an way to help people who have “passionate niche interests” find others who feel the same way, via smartphone apps. The company started out with apps focused a handful of topics like K-pop, anime and Doctor Who, but it later added the ability for anyone to launch a new community in the main Amino app, and there are now more than 2.5 million communities. Of course, some of these communities are more active than others, and there’s some overlap between them — but Max Sebela, who’s general manager for Amino’s English-language apps, said there’s less than you might think, because “each interest is actually a universe of micro interest.” For example, there might be one community focused on sharing strategy and tactics around the video game Overwatch, while another might revolve around sharing Overwatch fan art. Ultimately, Sebela said it’s up to the founders and leaders of each community to decide what the community wants to focus on, and which product features they want to use to enable that. Meanwhile, Anderson said Amino is constantly tweaking its algorithms to make sure it’s surfacing the best communities for each user. “Instead of one big, blue ocean, we provide a million lakes and help you find the exact right one,” he added. Perhaps even more impressive than the number of communities is the amount of time the average user spends in Amino — more than 70 minutes per day. One of the initial inspirations for the startup was a real-world anime convention, and Amino getting closer to that experience with the addition of features like live voice and video chat, as well as the screening room, where you can watch videos with other users. During our conversation, Sebela opened up one of the K-Pop communities on his phone and was quickly able to listen in on a chat room where multiple users were singing along together. (Sadly, we didn’t join the singing.) “The technology not super unique,” Anderson acknowledged. “What makes it really special is, I can voice chat with my friends on a lot of idfferent networks, but here I can hop in and join a voice chat with 10 Harry Potter fans who I may not know in my real life.” While these features are already live, Anderson said they’ve been “downplayed” while Amino tests them out and works out the kinks. Now it’s ready to put them “front-and-center” in the app. Amino has now raised more than $70 million in total funding. It’s also been testing out ways to make money, which Anderson said will occur primarily through a subscription service — though apparently it’s too early for him to offer more details.

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In November, Google Home gained the ability to multitask with added support for a feature called “multiple queries,” which allows you to combine two requests into one voice command. For example, “OK Google, turn up the volume and play music.” Now, Google Home is getting even smarter about multitasking by enabling support three requests at once. The new feature was announced on Google’s @madebyGoogle Twitter account on Monday, where users quickly discovered its limitations. Unfortunately for Google’s global customer base, multiple queries is only available in the English language for the time being, in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. You’re not the only one who can multitask. Now Google Home can perform up to three queries at a time, so you can get more done. pic.twitter.com/7jTd97Evus — Made by Google (@madebygoogle) June 11, 2018 The feature works by combining voice queries with the word “and” in between them, to separate the different requests. Each command must also be the sort of thing Google Assistant can respond to on its own without further input or clarification. That means you can’t ask it to just “set an alarm,” you’d have to say “set an alarm for 7 AM” so it doesn’t need to ask a follow-up question. Multiple queries was first rolled out in November 2017, also with little fanfare. But it’s not the only way Google Home can multitask. In February, Google Assistant gained support for Routines, as well, which allow you to create custom workflows kicked off with a single voice command. For instance, your “I’m home” routine could turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat and play some music. (Alexa also offers routines, as of last October.) Meanwhile, at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, the company formally announced multiple queries for Google Home (then referred to as “Multiple Actions”), along with a host of other upgrades for Google Home Actions. This included Routine Suggestions, which allow voice app developers to prompt users to add their app’s Action to a Routine, plus Action Notifications, which allows voice apps to alert users to new features and content, and more. We appreciate the feedback. This feature is supported in the US, UK, Canada and Australia using the English language. — Made by Google (@madebygoogle) June 12, 2018 Google is not providing an ETA on when multiple queries will roll out to non-English users, saying only that:“We look forward to supporting additional languages, but have nothing to announce at this time.”  h/t: Voicebot

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First previewed during WWDC, Apple has just given us another peek at the iBooks revamp (a version of which has been floating around for some time now). Apple Books is launching on iOS during the fall. The “biggest books redesign ever” features a newer, cleaner UI, with a larger focus on cover art than its predecessor. Also new here is the inclusion of an editorial section. That’s similar to what the company’s been doing with services like Apple News and the App Store, bringing human writers in to editorially curate book picks. Audiobooks are being served up more prominently here, as well, with the addition of a devoted tab. The new Reading Now tab, meanwhile, is pretty much what it sounds like, offering up a place to jump back into titles users are currently reading/listening to. It also houses a Want to Read wishlist and curated recommendations, based on your reading habits. The bottom is rounded out with Book Store and Library tags. The new version presents a conscious uncoupling from iTunes, from which various multimedia offerings have been spun off over the past several years as standalones. It also represents a clear stab the Kindle. Amazon’s offering has long been the leader in digital books, and its 2008 Audible acquisition has helped make audiobooks a much more prominent part of the equation. The new version of the app is arriving in the fall, with Book Store content available in 51 countries. The macOS version of the app is also being renamed Apple Books, for the sake of consistency.

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This is it, the absolute last chance for the professional-grade procrastinators out there. It’s do-or-die time. If you’re an early-stage founder who dreams of launching your business to the world, you have 24 hours left to stop dreaming and take action. Get your keister in gear and apply to Startup Battlefield right now. Startup Battlefield, the premier startup-pitch competition and the best platform for launching your company to the world, takes place at Disrupt San Francisco 2018 on September 5-7. This year we’re producing our biggest, boldest, most ambitious Disrupt ever, with three times the floor space, more than 10,000 attendees and more than 400 accredited media outlets. Yeah, that’s a big deal, and we’ve doubled the Startup Battlefield prize to match this super-sized event: $100,000 (we’re talking equity-free cash, folks). Don’t pass up this opportunity to compete with the very best. Yes, it’s a competitive vetting process. TechCrunch editors will review all applications and select between 15-30 of the top early-stage startups. Our acceptance rate ranges from three to six percent. But hey, if you’ve got the stuff, it won’t matter. We’ll see it. It won’t cost you a thing to compete or to participate, and every team gets free pitch coaching from our Startup Battlefield-tested TechCrunch editors. Each team gets six minutes on the Disrupt Main Stage to pitch their company to a panel of judges — consisting of well-known investors, entrepreneurs and technologists — and then answer any questions they may ask. The judges will choose five teams to enter a second and final round of pitching to a fresh team of judges. That panel of judges determines the overall winner, who will claim the largest Startup Battlefield prize in TechCrunch history — along with the Disrupt Cup, bragging rights and an enormous amount of investor and media interest. Every moment of Startup Battlefield takes place in front of a live audience numbering in the thousands, and it’s also live-streamed around the world (and available later on demand) on TechCrunch.com, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Every competing team receives an inordinate amount of exposure. You’ll get even more exposure exhibiting in Startup Alley — our exhibition hall will showcase more than 1,200 early-stage startups — for all three days of the conference. It’s free for Startup Battlefield competitors, and it’s a huge networking opportunity. And, of course, you can take advantage of Disrupt’s three content-packed days of exciting and inspiring tech programming, world-class speakers, Q&A Sessions, the Virtual Hackathon and world-class founder-to-investor networking made easy with the CrunchMatch platform. So much potential. So many benefits. So little time left to apply. Disrupt San Francisco 2018 takes place on September 5-7 at Moscone Center West. You have just 24 hours left. Apply to Startup Battlefield right here.

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Instagram’s shoppable tags are about to pop up in Stories. The company first started testing the feature back in 2016 with a limited set of 20 partners. Since then it’s been a hit, expanding broadly to regular brand posts in the feed. Starting today, hitting a little shopping bag sticker in a Story will lead you to more details on the cute and/or dope thing that caught your eye and how to score it. It’s a simple addition, but given the success of Stories it’s a potent one for brands that drive sales on the platform. “With 300M using Instagram Stories everyday, people are increasingly finding new products from brands they love,” Instagram said in a press release. “In a recent survey, Instagrammers said they often watch stories to stay in the-know with brands they’re interested in, get an insider view of products they like, and find out about new products that are relevant to them.” As a longtime daily Instagram user, I used to be skeptical that people really engaged with brands like this and not just their friends or dogs they know. Now, after seeing my fiancée’s considerable #engagement around makeup brands running wildly popular accounts, Stories and all, I get it. Well, I don’t get it, but I get that some people get it and that the often vast and expertly crafted brand Stories are a logical evolution for a platform trying to get more users buying more stuff in the product categories that call to them.

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Primary Venture Partners, a seed firm that invests exclusively in New York City startups, has raised a second fund of $100 million. That focus is unusual — even Lerer Hippeau, a firm that’s closely associated with New York, makes some investments outside the region. Primary’s Ben Sun (pictured above with his co-founder Brad Svrluga) said he’s betting, in part, on the New York workforce, particularly “the talent that came into the tech ecosystem post-financial crisis” — a shift that gave the city more talented entrepreneurs, plus a talent pool that they could draw from to build their companies. After all, Sun noted that employment in New York’s tech sector grew by 57 percent between 2010 and 2016. He also said that Primary (formerly known as High Peaks Venture Partners) offers more support and services than many seed firms — for example, Cat Hernandez, Primary’s partner focused on “human capital,” has been directly involved in hiring nearly 200 employees at the firm’s portfolio companies. Primary is able to offer that level of support with a team of 13 people, Sun said, by leveraging local connections and expertise. The investment team has also grown, with the addition of Steve Schlafman as venture partner last month — Sun described him as “a super highly networked guy who has a really good nose for talent.” (When we talked to Schlafman prior to today’s announcement, he managed to dodge a question about the firm’s fundraising.) “With a singular focus on this market, we were able to build an operating and portfolio impact model that provides concentrated, on-site support to our portfolio companies in a way that wouldn’t be possible across geographies,” Svrluga said in an emailed statement. “Raising this second fund not only gives us the capital to continue to be a high-conviction seed round leader, but to continue to expand our Portfolio Impact team so that we can be an even better partner to our founders on their journey from Seed to Series A.” Primary’s approach has resulted in some big successes already, like Jet.com (acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion) and Coupang (valued at $5 billion). Even beyond the most attention-grabbing deals, Sun pointed to the fact that of the 15 companies in the Primary portfolio that have tried to raise Series A rounds, 13 of them have succeeded. As part of this announcement, VCs that Primary has worked with in the past also offered their praise, with Spark Capital’s Kevin Thau describing the firm as a team that “knows the New York Seed market better than anyone,” and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Eric Feng saying it’s “one of the top partners to startups in the city, providing true value guiding their portfolio companies from seed to Series A.” While the firm raised significantly more this time around (Primary’s first fund was $60 million), Sun said it will remain focused on seed deals — with the occasional incubated startup, like dog food company Ollie. It will, however, be able to write slightly larger checks, say in the $1.5 million to $2 million range, with additional funding reserved for follow-on rounds. “What we’re going to do with this $100 million is follow the same strategy,” Sun said.

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Dreamit Ventures, a Philadelphia-based early stage investor and accelerator, announced it was moving into security today. To that end, it also announced it was bringing on Bob Stasio, an industry vet with roots in startups, IBM and work in the military and the NSA to run the new division. The company is adding security to its existing verticals, health technology and urban technology. In fact, the news comes just weeks after announcing that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has invested $12 million in the company to move the urban vertical forward. As for SecureTech, the company sees a big opening in this area as Fortune 500 organizations struggle with security in a constantly changing landscape. They want to find early stage startups wherever they are in the world with creative ideas on how to solve security problems. Dreamit wants to connect these young startups with companies looking for solutions they can trust. Bringing in Stasio should help. His most recent job was Chief of Operations at IBM X-Force Command Center and prior to that he was global head of threat intelligence at Bloomberg and chief of operations branch at the Cyber Center, a branch of the NSA. That kind of background has built up connections and as his colleagues have moved into CISO positions at prominent companies, he can use his network to help his charges at Dreamit. Stasio, who had his own attempts at the startup life, knows it’s not always easy for technically minded folks with a good idea to get in front of an executive at a big company and hit a home run. It takes coaching and practice. “The really hot agile startups with really good tech tend to fail when they get in front of front of an enterprise CISO (chief information security officer) because they don’t know how to pitch. They don’t know the kinds of problems and trials and tribulations that go on at an enterprise. So we’re going to help coach them to get them to that point, so that their business model and what they’re doing, how they’re going to implement their solution is ready for a large company,” Stasio told TechCrunch. The company is looking at security in three areas: logical, physical and social. Logical is the more traditional kind of cybersecurity software and hardware approaches with artificial intelligence, threat hunting and threat intelligence, but they also want to look at areas that are frequently ignored involving the physical side of security. That could include drones, imagery analysis, physical security of buildings, protection of people and places, VIP security and so forth. The social side is looking how to protect against dissemination of false information, a growing problem. They run a couple of cohorts a year for each vertical. Typically they take no more than 10 companies and that’s out of about 300 applications per vertical, so it’s very selective, says Steve Barsh, partner and chief innovation officer at Dreamit. The companies go through a 14 week program, after which they can choose to write a check or not (and the company still gets the benefit of having been in the accelerator). “They give us an investor right to write a check for up to $500,000 at a 20% discount, the 20% discount, which is the value we think of the 14 weeks of going through Dreamit. And we only get the discount if we write the check,” Barsh explained. Their goal is getting the participants to the next funding round, which is well aligned with the goal of the startup itself. If they get that round, then Dreamit writes a check too with the 20 percent discount. They said being Philadelphia, allows them to bring their charges in for the program, and then allow them to present to executives in New York and DC, where a huge chunk of business is going to be.

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